Recently Featured Essays:  

A Ha'pence of Sense

by Peter Wadsworth

Soon after reaching his hundredth birthday, my father decided he had finished with looking after himself and moved into a nursing home.

I visit once a week.

I enter the room to find him slumped in a chair. The thought insinuates: "he's dead!" A rattle, and saliva trickles from his mouth. I shake myself and stride towards him. "Hello dad," I say, and repeat louder when I get no answer. A gentle pressure on his shoulder elicits no response, neither does a firm grip. I retire, defeated, to fetch his jacket from his room, and pass a resident in the corridor determinedly making progress while clutching her walking frame and muttering to no one in particular. Returning with the coat and a wheelchair, I grasp his shoulder. He stirs, eyes flickering open and shut as his consciousness struggles to return to the resident's lounge. Still a little confused, he looks around and notices my presence. After a few seconds his dazed expression turns to recognition and a little smile flickers across his face. I sit next to him while he gathers strength, inspecting his face. The forehead sports a large plaster earned from his latest fall. Yellow teeth few but still his own. Hair pure white, the waves hinting at once lustrous full locks. The face still remarkably unlined, belying his 102 years.

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Red Wings

by Susan E. Lindsey

“Your stepmom and I are sorting stuff,” Dad said over the phone. “Is there anything of your mom’s you want? When you come out to Washington, you can take what you want back with you to Kentucky.”

My mom, an educated, well-read, and articulate woman, had been dead nearly twenty years. She died of cancer in her fifties. We had sorted and disposed of most of her belongings shortly after her memorial service, but Dad had kept a few things.

My father and beloved stepmother, Bernice, had been very happy together, but they were getting older and more aware of their mortality. Dad was calling his kids to pass along his possessions, starting with the things of Mom’s that he still had.

I pondered his question for several days. I had loved my mother very much. Shortly after she died, my father gave me her wedding and engagement rings. I had since passed them along to my daughter when she married and she wore them with pride and affection. Nothing of Mom’s would mean as much to me as her rings, but Dad obviously wanted me to have something else of hers. I thought about durable, but sentimental things—things that had meant something to her and would mean something to me, but that were portable enough to survive a trip of more than 2,000 miles. Not the delicate rose-covered china or the beautiful lead crystal—my sister, who lived closer to Dad, could have those. Not furniture or the boxes filled with her many books—too bulky to transport or ship. My brothers could divide them.

I called him back. “If no one else wants it, I’ll take the sterling silver flatware you and Mom got for your wedding.”

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Mount Osceola

by Frederick Keogh

Every summer I make the pilgrimage home, flying from Milwaukee to Hartford via a random city I could care less about. I still get joy from looking out the window of the jet, but lately there always seem to be clouds or I am put in the aisle seat. Lately, something always comes between me and joy, and it is with immense relief that I greet the landing at Bradley International, the nets on the tobacco fields circling the runways like spider webs caught in morning dew.

The relief is not long-lived, for I am always going to visit my mother, who lives in the same house that my grandmother lived in before she died. My mother is alone now, her husband—my father—gone, although Mom, in her mind, is never really alone. Sometime after heart surgery when she was eighty, her mind became stronger than her senses, so that of late, she sees and, more importantly, hears things that are only present for her. She talks of her husband in the present tense and is certain, at least for that moment, he is still alive. The doctors say she has dementia, as if a label like that explains anything, but whatever she suffers, it can be nerve wracking. It is far worse for her, to be sure, for she is the one certain that a child is bleeding to death on the road outside her house, or that men are plotting murder outside her bedroom window, but it is no comfort to us, either. And so, as part of every summer trip to Connecticut, I plan a visit with Jim.

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